Those stock-photo images of a smooth stone, a bamboo stalk, a dew drop on a leaf… they are zen clichés, but they do tell a story. The story is of what makes the rock worthy of contemplation—which is, not its roundness or its gloss, or its symbolic patience or solidity, or its charming asymmetry. What makes the rock beautiful and worthy is its rockness. And even to say ‘rockness’ is to make an adjective out of a noun, thereby missing the point. The point is, that words and concepts cannot describe what is already perfect and far beyond words.
What I see as particularly Zen is its deep respect for the innate nature of all things. Respect is key, and it applies equally to lumpy imperfect people as to river stones. What makes us buddhas is not our kindness or intelligence or learnedness or beauty, nor our skills or accomplishments. There is nothing we need to do and no one we need to be. What makes us buddhas is just the fact that we areâ€”and that, in itself, is awesome and complete and totally, deliciously, delightfully Zen.